Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh

In “Delivering Happiness”, Tony Hsieh, CEO of online retailer Zappos, tells of his life as an entrepreneur. We hear about 9-year-old Tony’s doomed worm farm venture, and about his Harvard-based fast food outfit. We follow him as he makes and loses a fortune in his twenties, and eventually seals his famous $1.2 billion deal with Amazon. By sharing his story, Hsieh hopes to guide other entrepreneurs towards wealth, happiness and fulfilment.

Hsieh attributes Zappos’s success to its strong ethos, which permeates every area of company life. Instead of a mere handbook, Zappos has its own “Culture Book” which stresses, among other things, the importance of “WOW” customer service, of creating “Fun and a Little Weirdness”, and of “Open and Honest Relationships”. Great lengths are taken to employ people who will abide by this extensive mission statement. Hsieh, who has always worked closely with personal friends, only takes on unconventional types whose faces fit. Inspired by the connectedness of rave culture, his aim has always been to build a “tribe” with a shared “higher purpose”, as opposed to just a staff. This lofty aim has clearly been attained as Zappos employees, now based in Vegas, live side by side, socialise together, and support each other through personal crises.

This communal lifestyle is clearly working for Zappos out in the desert, but whether Hsieh’s extreme team building experiment could be replicated in the UK is a different matter.

It could also be tricky to pull off Zappos-style customer service on these drizzly isles. Zappos reps are famed for being prepared to help anybody with just about anything. Hsieh tells of how he once dared someone to call Zappos for information about late night pizza joints. He was of course jubilant when, un-phased, the rep came up with some answers for his astonished friend. The principle at work here is that having been “delivered happiness” once, a customer will remember the company and come back for more.

Hsieh believes that through delivering happiness to customers and staff you will consequently deliver happiness to yourself. While you may find all this talk of happiness (a nebulous concept at the best of times) slightly wearisome, Hsieh’s approach is clearly one to follow. Now aged 40, he is a) fabulously wealthy b) a prominent philanthropist and c) presumably very happy as a result. This talented son of Taiwanese immigrants presents an American Dream of a life story; whether it inspires cheers or sneers will be down to temperament. We loved it. And there’s no doubt that if you wish to invigorate your customer service policy, learn how to create corporate identity, or find out how to seamlessly blend work and play, “Delivering Happiness” is a vital book to read.